Jasper, Ind., Priest Placed on Leave Pending Charges of Sexual Battery

By Philip Elliott
Courier & Press
August 12, 2005

EVANSVILLE -- A Diocese of Evansville priest faces charges he sexually molested a 19-year-old mentally disabled man and could face more than 30 years in prison if convicted.

The Rev. Wilfred "Fred" Englert, 52, of Jasper, Ind., faces four counts of sexual battery and one count of deviant sexual conduct. He has been placed on paid administrative leave from his diocesan duties.

Indiana State Police say Englert, of Jasper's St. Joseph Catholic Church, befriended the accuser during the past year and repeatedly molested him from April to June. The accuser said the priest did so while they camped at Patoka Lake and in a residence in Dubois, Ind.

The accuser, who lives with his parents who have legal guardianship over him, called state police July 18 and the resulting investigation prompted police to arrest Englert on Thursday. He turned himself in at Dubois Circuit Court in Jasper, where he was arraigned. He later faced additional charges in Orange County, where Patoka Lake is located.

The Diocese of Evansville suspended Englert, a senior associate pastor, July 21 and he moved from the rectory the next day, Diocesan Communication Director Paul Leingang said.

"The bishop said the administrative leave was in accordance with diocesan personnel policies," Leingang said. "It's a matter of diocesan personnel policies and that's all I can say."

The Rev. Raymond Brenner, dean of the Jasper Deanery and Englert's boss at St. Joseph Catholic Church, said he heard about the accusations at the same time he heard of the suspension.

Monsignor Kenneth Knapp, the diocese's vicar general and second in command, called Brenner as he was preparing for services July 21. Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger was traveling outside the diocese.

Leingang said the bishop approved the suspension. "The bishop was in town not on 21st (of July), but it was his action that put Father Englert on administrative leave," he said.

The four counts of sexual battery, class D felonies, each could carry six months to three years in prison. The class B felony charge of deviant sexual conduct could bring six to 20 years.

Englert has served the diocese since 1986. His past assignments have included St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Newburgh and St. Joseph Catholic Church and Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Evansville.


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